The Ice Garden has started a new series, “Rink Ink,” which features various hockey players’ tattoos. A form of self-expression, tattoos provide unique insights into the players’ lives — their mottos, their beliefs, their motivations, their interests. For the second installment, The Ice Garden spoke with Anya Battaglino of the Connecticut Whale and Director of the NWHLPA.
What tattoos do you have, and what is the meaning behind them?
I have an arrow on the left side of my ribs and a scallop shell on my left foot. On the right side, I have a big hockey skate with my friend's initials. Below that on the side of my leg, I have angel wings and a brain tumor ribbon with my friend's name.
All of them have have a separate meaning, and all of them have their own place in my heart. For me, at the time they were the most important thing I've done. I'll probably talk to two of them, but I can talk to you about all of them.
Tell me about all of them!
I will! I have four, so it’s not too crazy. On my foot is the scallop shell which is the Hawaiian symbol for family. Everyone has their own path, and everybody is so powerful and so strong and independent and great, so [family] has always been important to me. Getting a tattoo that symbolized my family was something that was very meaningful to me, so I started with that. Actually, that wasn't even my first one, just the first one I told you about.
My first one was actually the brain tumor ribbon and angel wings with my friend's name in Armenian. When I was growing up, one of my best friends in elementary school was diagnosed with a brain tumor. At the time, you don't really know what that means or what that feels like, and now as I grow up and learn about it, it's a very scary thing. He took it in stride and turned around and said, “I’m going to start getting hats donated and give them to the people in the facility I go to get my treatment done.” He would bring them to the kids in the hospital, and he was amongst peers and amongst people that were going through the same thing. [He would] bring bags and bags of these hats to give out to his new friends. He's always an inspiration to me as I didn’t know what battling adversity felt like. I was 8 - I didn't know what loss had felt like, and all of these things happened so quickly.
He started this bracelet making company. We would all go to his house, and his Make-A-Wish was to turn his basement into an arcade so his friends would have something to do because he was on steroids, and he couldn’t do much. We would sit there and make bracelets, and he would sell them and donate money to research for brain tumors. He was always a light in my life. When I turned 18, I begged my mom if my first tattoo could be this, and she said absolutely. This is something that changed who I was as a person, so that was my first tattoo.
After those two, I got an arrow on my ribs with one of my best friends. We were in college, and all of our roommates were like "we're going to get these tattoos." Only two of us ended up doing it because not everyone does it, which is when you know you're the idiot. I thought no one would do it with me, but one of my best friends got it with me as well. The quote refers to “just aiming.” If life keeps pulling you back, just aim and focus on what's ahead of you and what you're trying to get to, and eventually, like an arrow, you'll take off and get there. That symbolized hockey for me, and potentially my whole life. People always told me “no” — that I couldn’t do something or I couldn’t go to this school or I couldn’t play college hockey. When I got to college hockey, [they told me] I couldn’t play, and I couldn’t dress and all these different things. I thought [to myself], I’m going to keep aiming, and I'm going to launch myself off into something so much better. It's always rung true in my life.
My last one that I recently got is a big hockey skate and is probably my biggest tattoo. My friend Dougie passed away, and we grew up playing hockey together. I was in high school, and there were 6 of us all trying to get this college dream. The boys practiced before the girls -- our practices started at 3:30, and the boys' started at 2. Dougie used to always wait after his practice, before I would get on the ice, and give me a big hug and a big kiss on the cheek and stand there. I remember him in the corner with his letterman jacket on watching me practice. It was probably to charm me, but at the same time, he was so supportive and would come to my games. At the end of the boys’ game, half the boys team would leave to go do the cool stuff, but Dougie and my friend Brian would sit there and watch our game. It was like the three little stooges that would hang out. When he passed away we all got the same tattoo, the skate with his initials over the top of them.
Tattoos are very cool and can tell a whole story, but I have the impulse to get a whole sleeve that's just random cool pieces. I have yet to do that, but those are my four little stories that I carry with me everywhere.
What would you get on your sleeve if you did get it?
I think I'm obsessed. ... I would love to be able to just walk up to a tattoo artist and be like what's your favorite piece or what kind of art inspires you and let that just be their time. I always wonder how people pick this when they have a crazy mermaid or a trident or a god. Are you that passionate about Zeus that that's what on your arm? I don’t think I would necessarily have that, but I would always try and work in little personal pieces into it. I would work in a liquor bottle for my brother because he's a bartender, and that's something he's super passionate about. I'd work in something for my family and pay an homage to my mom and how she's so strong.
At the same time, I’m one of those people that can find meaning in everything, so if somebody is like "I have this," I can create a whole story on how that applies to my life. If I were to go in for a sleeve, but i probably won’t because my mom would kill me, but if I were to do it anyway, I would probably find someone that I thought their work spoke to me and just let them express themselves. Tattoos are cool that you can go in there and say I want this and get it. Eventually I want an equality sign somewhere, but [tattoos are] an expression of art. It's so cool when someone has a watercolor art piece and has let someone express themselves forever! I’m a huge tattoo person. I think they're sweet.
Tattoos are also addicting, and sometimes people don’t realize that either.
I know! I got all my tattoos in a matter of 3 years, and now I’m itching that I can’t get anymore because I try not to keep them super exposed, and the one on my foot is at work. I work in tech, so it's a very open environment where people don’t really care about tattoos, but I’m always just like I want to ink every part of my body. I want to ink all down my leg now that I have a piece on my leg, and my mom is like “No! What's wrong with you?!”
Any advice for people wanting to get their first tattoo?
Don't be afraid to go multiple places and talk to people. I think you get so nervous that you're going to make this life-long choice that you go to the first place you see. When I was in Boston, [I met] Mark. I walked into the shop, and we really hit it off. Now, I refer all my friends to go to him, and I love the way he does his work. It's Americana, it's badass, it's cool. He definitely wasn't the first tattoo artist I had met, and he actually ended up covering up some of my other tattoos because we ended up connecting on such a level he was happy to touch those up for me. .... I’m lucky that I made a bond with one of my tattoo artists.
So my advice is talk to people. Who cares? [If you] walk in somewhere and don't like the vibe, leave. It's going to be on your body for the rest of your life. What we don’t talk about tattoos is that if you get anxiety or nervous that you're not going to like it, take time. You can get a tattoo at 27 that you would have gotten at 18 that still means the same thing to you.
Anything else you want to say about tattoos?
You can be the first one to know this: When we win the Isobel Cup this year, I'm getting a tattoo for the Connecticut Whale, and I’m going to let every fan in the league that has some artistic ability design it for me. I’m going to put a contest out there, let everyone try and design it, and I’m going to pick one and get it. We're going to win it, and that's what I’m going to do.
Is that on the record?
100%. When the Connecticut Whale win the Isobel Cup, I'm going to have a fan design my tattoo. The fans are awesome — their art is freaking awesome. What do you do when you win the Isobel Cup? You get a tattoo and make sure it means something to you, and that would be the most meaningful way to get that tattoo. That's absolutely on the record.